UP: Solid OR offsets volume decline

Written by Carolina Worrell
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Union Pacific on April 21, 2016 reported 2016 first-quarter net income of nearly $1 billion, or $1.16 per diluted share, compared to about $1.2 billion, or $1.30 per diluted share, in first-quarter 2015, and an operating ratio of 65.1%, essentially flat compared to the prior-year quarter.

“In this challenging volume environment, we have continued our intense focus on operating safely and efficiently, managing our resources, and improving our customer experience,” said Lance Fritz, Union Pacific chairman, president and chief executive officer. “As a result, the quarterly operating ratio came in at 65.1%, up only 0.3 points from last year, as solid core pricing and productivity improvements helped to offset an 8% decline in total volumes.”

Operating revenue of $4.8 billion was down 14% in the first quarter 2016 compared to the first-quarter 2015. First-quarter business volumes, as measured by total revenue carloads, declined 8% compared to 2015. Volume declines in coal, industrial products, agricultural products and intermodal more than offset growth in automotive, UP said. Chemicals volume was flat compared to 2015 as declines in crude oil and fertilizer carloads offset growth in other chemicals shipments.

Additionally, quarterly freight revenue decreased 14% compared to first-quarter 2015, as volume declines, lower fuel surcharge revenue, and a negative business mix more than offset core pricing gains.

UP’s 65.1% operating ratio was unfavorable by 0.3 points compared to first-quarter 2015. The net impact of lower fuel prices during the quarter negatively impacted the operating ratio by about 0.5 points.

The $1.25 per gallon average quarterly diesel fuel price in first-quarter 2016 was 36% lower than first-quarter 2015.

Quarterly train speed, as reported to the Association of American Railroads, was 27.3 mph, 11% faster than first-quarter 2015.

UP’s reportable personal injury rate of 0.75 per 200,000 employee-hours was a first-quarter record, improving 12% compared to 2015.

The company repurchased 9.3 million shares in first-quarter 2016 at an aggregate cost of $713 million.

“This year has brought a continuation of many of the same trends we experienced throughout most of 2015,” Fritz said. “An energy market recession, low commodity prices, the strength of the U.S. dollar in a soft global economy, and muted domestic retail demand all contributed to market weakness across many of our business lines. Despite the current challenges, we will continue to adapt to new business environments, drive productivity and innovation, and improve our industry leading safety performance as we work toward our ultimate goal of zero incidents. At the same time, we will leverage the strength and diversity of the Union Pacific franchise to develop new business opportunities, provide an excellent customer experience, and generate strong long-term value for our shareholders.”

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